A Nonprofit Serving Farmer Boys in The Midwest

Historically, farming has been one of the most important activities in the United States Midwest. Yosef Meystel knows that for centuries, people living in the area have worked in farms, first taking care of corn, wheat, soybeans, oats, and barley crops and later in time including dairy and beef cattle. These farming activities have been possible thanks to the fertile and rich soils present in the area and due to the use of the right tools to cultivate different types of cereal in what was considered an extremely dense soil.

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Image courtesy of Caleb Feese at Flickr.com

Thanks to the importance of the Midwest in terms of agriculture, the area has been called the nation’s “breadbasket.” Nowadays, only ten percent of the land in this area remains untouched and uncultivated, the rest of it has been modified and offers thousands of jobs every year to young farmers.

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time at the beginning of the 20th century when all these farmer boys who dedicated their lives to cultivating the land were exhausted of their chores. They felt they needed more and were not doing enough with their lives. This is how they FFA (Future Farmers of America) was created, providing American young farmers the chance to be part of leadership programs that could also help them with the knowledge they required to work at a farm. This organization was founded as a nonprofit dedicated to helping young farmers have a brighter future while they had the possibility to keep their heritage and history together.

How it all started

At the beginning of the 20th century, boys were losing interest in continuing the family tradition of being farmers and were leaving the farms. It was due to this situation that in 1925 a group of gentleman who was members of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Agricultural Education Department decided to form an organization that offered boys the opportunity of developing leadership skills at the time they had the chance of expressing themselves freely. The final goal was to help farmer boys understand how important they were and how they should be proud and confident about their labor.

At first, the FFA was called Future Farmers of Virginia. However, this nonprofit based in the Midwest had such a national impact that by 1929 its named was changed to Future Farmers of America and 33 students from 18 states acted as its first active members. By this time, the organization already had an emblem that was emphatic about the importance of farmers nationally.

It didn’t’ take too long before the organization merged with another institution who had the same bellies. Such is the case of the New Farmers of America, a national organization for African-American boys interested in agriculture. As both organizations shared the same principles, in 1965 they consolidated in recognition of shared missions for leadership and agricultural education.

African- American boys were not the only group interested in being part of this nonprofit. Women, who were at first restricted from the organization, were allowed to be part of it in the 70’s. This represented a major step since women nowadays constitute 45% of the FFA active members. The inclusion of ever young farmer has allowed the organization to grow and become what it is today.

Related: Big Shoulders Fund: supporting education since 1986

Future Farmers of America today

As it was during its first days, FFA exists thanks to the generous contributions of donors and members. The entire institution is structured is made up of state associations, which are at the same time formed by local chapters. In other words, the organization exists in a way that members are the one who gets some benefit out of it.

Besides the fact that FFA is a nonprofit, it is important to know that members decided to change its name in 1988 from Future Farmers of America to FFA. The reason to this is that farming involves other disciplines that are also vital for the existence of farms. In this sense, the organization wanted to have a more neutral name, since those young individuals interested in becoming veterinarians, entrepreneurs, or having any career related to the agriculture business were also welcomed.

After having an impact in millions of agriculture students, having a strong mission and a highly inspiring twelve-word motto – Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve. FFA has proved to be one of the most important nonprofits in America dedicated to agricultural education and leadership training. It has shown everyone that with a common goal and a strong will, it is possible to have an impact on the way things are. Thanks to this outstanding labor, more people every day are committed to agriculture as something bigger than just planting and harvesting. It is a business that affects every American and the food we all have on our tables.

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